BROADWAY — Facing a 14-6 deficit in the first set of its Region III semifinal volleyball match Thursday night against Northside High School, Turner Ashby found no reason to panic. The Knights had overcome a two-games-to-one hole in the quarterfinals against Spotswood just to get to this match, and they weren’t about to let a slow start ruin their plans of reaching the state tournament.
With senior captain Emily Shickel serving, and the Knights having not won a single service point until that moment, TA ripped off a 10-0 run to propel itself to a Game 1 victory and used that momentum to prevail 25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 25-21.
“It really just shows the heart of our team,” Shickel said of the quick comeback. “We don’t give up no matter how far we’re down. And it was really cool to see everyone come together.”
Second-seeded TA (22-3) advanced to Saturday’s regional title game at Broadway, where it will meet No. 1 E.C. Glass, which swept No. 4 Lord Botetourt in the other semifinal. Both teams automatically advance to the state tournament, but that certainly doesn’t take any zip out of the matchup.
Coach Gina Troyer said she believed TA, which has won district and state titles in the past, hasn’t ever won a regional title – and that distinction would be quite nice.
“We just need to take care of the ball on our side,” Troyer said of Saturday’s matchup with Glass, the 22-4 Seminole District champion. “Pass the ball, serve/receive well. We just need to play our game and worry about what we do on our side of the net, and see what happens.”
Northside provided a difficult challenge Thursday. Though the Knights had defeated the Vikings twice in three-set matches during an early-season tournament in September, Northside owned a clear size advantage on the front line.
The Knights mitigated that Viking edge by playing textbook defense – keeping plays alive and then banging home crafty winners at the net.
“Definitely our defense,” senior Miriam Karunakaran said was the key. “I think that definitely made up for our shortness. We don’t necessarily have the height, but we’re really scrappy in the back.”
Junior libero Marissa Collier had 29 digs, and Shickel had 17 digs, to go with 17 service points.
Though not the tallest hitter on the court, Abby Cleaver was huge on the front line, registering five blocks and 14 kills.
After stunning Northside in the first set, TA used a 7-0 run to take a commanding 22-11 lead in the second set, which it eventually won. Northside fought back to win the third set, but TA put the Vikings away 25-21 in the clinching game.
The Knights celebrated with family and friends on the court immediately after the match ended.
“It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Shickel said. “We’ve worked so hard, and there are a bunch of seniors on the team. To get what we worked for is so exciting.”